Chapter 10. The Messianic Prophecies


Throughout the Old Testament Christ 53 is regarded as the coming One. In the Old covenant the gospel is coming into being. “The Old Testament is the dusk and dawn of morning. The dawn belongs to the sun. Thus the Old Testament belongs to Christ.” “The Old Testament tells what Christ is, the New Testament tells who He is, and in such a way that it becomes manifest that he alone knows ‘Jesus’ who recognizes Him as the ‘Christ,’ and he alone knows who the ‘Christ’ is who knows that He is ‘Jesus.’ So do the two Testaments correspond to the two chief names of the Redeemer; the Old to the name of His vocation, Christ, the New to His personal name, Jesus; but both are inspired by one Spirit and explain each other.”


Footnote 53: Exactly the same verbal form Christos was used in the third century before Christ’s birth in the Bible of the exiled Jews in Egypt, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament prepared by the Jews. It is found in such passages as Psa. 2:2; I Sam. 2:10; Dan. 9:25.


Therefore the portrait of the Messiah in Old Testament prophecy is all-embracing. It depicts:


[1] The Person of the Messiah:


His humanity as to family, place, and time.


His divinity (this in veiled form—see p. 19).


[2] The Work of the Messiah:


His coming in lowliness.


His coming in glory.


[1] The Person of the Messiah


Before He became man Christ is already the centre of the history of salvation.


His anticipatory presentation in the Old Testament is at the same time a self-presentation, for the “Spirit of Christ” was in the prophets (I Pet. 1:11). The pre-Christian history of revelation is a “history of Christ” before He came.


(1) His humanity. Conscious of the goal, advancing in the course of centuries, Old Testament prophecy described the humanity of the Redeemer in ever narrowing and concentrating circles of light, like a pyramid tapering upwards. First of all


(a) The family. The world’s Redeemer descends


from mankind, is “the woman’s seed” (Gen. 3:15)—


thus was it spoken at the time of Adam and Eve: about 4300 B.C.;


from all the races of mankind, out of Shem’s family (Gen. 9:26)—


thus Noah prophesied: about 2300 B.C.;


from among all Shemites, out of the seed of Abraham (Gen.12:1-3)—


thus said God Himself: about 1900 B.C.;


from among all the nations descended from Abraham, out of Israel


as is proved by the transmission of the covenant to Isaac and Jacob: about 1850 B.C., see Gen. 26:3,4; 28:13,14;


from among all Israelites, out of the royal tribe of Judah


as was said a out 1800 B.C.: Gen. 49:10, comp. I Chron. 5:2; Heb.7:14.


Actually Reuben had the right of the firstborn. Nevertheless, the Messiah is not “Lion out of the tribe of Reuben.” For, on account of sin (as recorded in Gen. 35:22), Reuben was deprived of his firstborn rights and the right concerning the Messiah (I Chron. 5:1; Gen. 49:3,4). The next following brothers, Simeon and Levi, were also excluded (Gen. 49:5-7) on account of their bloody deed at Shechem (Gen. 34:25).


Thereupon Reuben’s rights as the firstborn were divided as follows:


The double share of the material inheritance (Deut. 21:15-17) went to Joseph (in Ephraim and Manasseh; I Chron. 5:1,2);


The priestly dignity (see Exod. 13:2,15), having regard to Exod. 32:26-28, went to Levi (Num. 3:12,45; 8:17,18) and


The ruler’s dignity (see Gen. 43:33; 48:14,18,19) went to Judah, Jacob’s fourth son (I Chron. 5:2). Therefore is the Messiah the “Lion out of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5; Gen.49:9,10).


After this the particularizing of the promise stopped for some centuries. Moses, indeed, about 1500 B.C., writes his fivefold work, and prophesies of the coming of a Prophet like to himself (Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:22;7:37); and, above all, the Tabernacle and the sacrifices are types of Christ as the Priest (esp. Exod. 25-31; Lev. 1-7; 16; John 5:46); but he carried the promise no further towards its summit.


The heathen seer, Balaam, Moses’ contemporary, likewise confined his prophecy of the coming King entirely within the general framework of Israel: “I see him, but not just now; behold him, but not near at hand; there rises a star out of Jacob and a sceptre out of Israel exalts itself” (Num. 24:17).


It is not before Nathan, the prophet of David’s time (about 1050 and thus 700 years later) that the specializing of the prophecy is resumed. In the meantime the kingdom of Israel had arisen (with Saul, 1100); and this, from the point of view of God’s kingly rule (Exod. 19:5,6; Deut. 33:5), was a retrograde step (I Sam. 8:7), a concession to the hard heartedness of mankind (see Matt. 19:8). But the plan of God cannot be frustrated by the counter-workings of men.


The divine-human Messiah king was to come out of Israel. Some one Israelite must therefore be His ancestor. But that this ancestor must be a king was in no wise necessary. To the kingship of Messiah no earthly royal dynasty was essential, nor even desired according to the plan of God. Any private person out of the tribe of Judah could be chosen as the forbear of the Messiah.


But after the kingdom had come and, if not at first willed by God, yet in fact instituted by Himself, the overruling by God of men’s shortcomings consisted in this, that God now chose for the ancestor of the Messiah not a private individual but rather a believing wearer of the crown.


This is the meaning in the plan of salvation of the mission of Nathan (I Chron. 17:3-14). Through the prophecy of Nathan to David, the Messianic promises within the royal tribe of Judah were conferred on him, the crowned son of Jesse (see Isa. 11:1). From now onwards the Messiah is the “Son of David” (see. Rev. 5:5). 54


Footnote 54: The name “David” occurs about 980 times in the Old Testament and about 50 times in the New Testament, that is over 1,000 times in all. The name “Jesus occurs almost 1,000 times.


The furthering specializing of the promise then continues right through David’s royal family. Out of David’s numerous sons (II Sam.5:13,14) two especially became transmitters of the Messianic blessing, Solomon and Nathan, both sons of Bathsheba (I Chron. 3:5). From Solomon was descended Joseph, the legal “father” of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 1:6,16); from Nathan, the virgin Mary, His actual mother (Luke 3:23,31). Taken strictly Christ thus descends not from the chief royal line of Solomon, but from the non-reigning collateral line of Nathan. The one is the legal, the other the organic, the organic has more significance than the legal.


Matthew gives the ancestral tree of Joseph, Luke that of Mary, or, to be more accurate, of her father Eli (Luke 3:23), the father-in-law of Joseph (hence ver.23; comp. Neh. 7:63). The Talmud also calls Mary a daughter of Eli. Thus explain Luther, Bengel, Lange Delitzsch, and many others.


Thus, by gradual diffusion of the light, prophecy had advanced from the general to the particular, from the office to the office-bearer, from the material to the personal, as it were from “Christ” to “Jesus”. The Old Testament had been a “drawing by the Father to the Son”, even as the New Testament is a “drawing by the Son to the Father” (I Cor. 15:28).


Later, the earthly kingdom went to ruin. With Zedekiah the family of David lost its crown (II Chron. 36:11-20). But nevertheless the kingdom and the power and the glory continued with David (Isa. 55:3), and in the End time Christ, even as “David” will shepherd His people and the nations (Ezek. 37:24,25; Hos. 3:5; Isa. 11:1-10; Jer. 23:5). “My servant David shall be their prince for ever” (Ezek. 37:25, comp. Rev. 22:16). Thus man attained what he had desired (the earthly kingdom): but nevertheless at last God maintained His right (the heavenly kingdom).


(b) The place. With the prophecy of Nathan to David the question as to the family of the Messiah had been conclusively answered (about 1050 B.C.). But the question as to the place and time was not yet clarified. Therefore two further leading prophecies were added, these being, after 300 years (about 725), Micah’s prophecy as to the place (5:2; comp. 1:1), and after 500 years (about 536), Daniel’s prophecy as to the time  (Dan. 9:24-27; comp.1).


Although founded by a descendant of the heroic Caleb (I Chron. 2:50,51), and in the times of the Judges for seven years the seat of Ibzan the judge (Judges 12:8-10), in the centuries before David Bethlehem-Ephratah (House of Bread, the fruitful) enters the history of Israel only with a very inglorious reputation, connected indeed with death and mourning (Gen. 35:19,20) idolatry (Judges 17:7ff), immorality, fratricidal strife (Judges 19-21) and famine (Ruth 1:1). 55 But it was from this very city that God, who always condescends to the lowly, chose from Himself the ancestor of the Messiah; and thus Bethlehem Ephratah, as David’s city, became the place in which ‘Christ the Lord’ should be born (Mic. 5:2; Luke 2:11).


Footnote 55: Though the connexion is only indirect, the Levite Jonathan, the household priest of the idolatrous Micah, had come to him from Bethlehem (Judges 17:7-10,1-5; 18:30).


But the prophecy became yet more precise. Nearly two hundred years after Micah had foretold the place (about 725) Daniel (about 536) announced


(c) The Time. This took place in the prophecy of the “seventy year-weeks,” or, more exactly, the sixty-nine year-weeks before the advent of the seventieth. With this the prophecy reached its culminating point and at the same time its conclusion.


“Therefore know now and mark: From the time that there goes out a command that Jerusalem shall again be built unto the anointed one, the prince, are seven weeks and sixty two weeks; so will the streets and walls be built again, though in a troubled time; and after the sixty two weeks the Anointed One will be rooted out and be no more” (Dan. 9:25,26). 56


Footnote 56: That by this “anointed one” Christ is meant (and not perhaps Cyrus, or, according to II Macc. 4:34, the high priest Onias, murdered in B.C. 172) was the interpretation of the ancient church and of such later expositors as Hengstenberg, Auberlen, and Keil.


The seventy weeks (sevens) are each seven years. An Israelite like Daniel would grasp this very easily, since under the Mosaic law every seventh year was reckoned a sabbath year (Lev. 25:4). Thus the 7x62=69 year-weeks “unto the anointed one (the Messiah) the prince” embrace 483 years.


Their beginning is the issue of the command to rebuild Jerusalem (ver.25). This cannot mean the decree of Cyrus (536B.C.); for it was concerned chiefly with the rebuilding of the temple (II Chron. 36:23; Ezra 1:1-4; 5:13-15; 6:3-5), a task which was carried out by the prince Zerubbabel, the high priest Joshua, and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah by the year 516 (Ezra 5:1; 6:14,15). The actual rebuilding of the city was first carried out some decades later by the priest Ezra, the governor Nehemiah, and the prophet Malachi.


Their activity set in with the decree of the Persian king, Artaxerxes I Longinamus (Arthasastha), in the seventh year of his reign (465-424), regarding the political reorganization of Palestine, and therefore in the year 457B.C. (Ezra 7:25,7). The beginning of Ezra’s activity is thus the beginning of the seventy year-weeks. That it was only some years later (445) that Nehemiah could commence the building of the wall was because serious difficulties had at first stood in the way o laying the foundation. But nevertheless that first decree remains the beginning and “going out” of the command to rebuild the city.


If we add to this year 457 the foretold sixty-nine year-weeks, that is 483 years, we come to the year 26/27 A.D., that is, to the exact year in which, according to Luke 3:1,2, shortly after John the Baptist, Christ began to proclaim the message of the heavenly kingdom. For when the Lord appeared in public He was about thirty years of age (Luke 3:23), and since Herod the Great was living at the time of His birth (Matt.2), yet had died in the year 749 of the city of Rome, that is in the year 4 B.C., the Lord must have been born some four or five years before the beginning of the Christian reckoning of time, and thus at the commencement of His public ministry, in the year 26/27, was literally “about thirty years old.”


It is well known that Victorinus of Aquitania (died A.D. 465) and the Roman Abbot Dionisius Exiguus (died about 556) erred by four to six years in fixing the Christian era. Year “1” of the Christian era ought not to correspond to the year “753” of the city of Rome, but at least to 749, if not to one or two years earlier. The year 26 is also the “fifteenth year of Tiberius” (Luke 3:1), for Luke does not there reckon the years of reign from the sole rule of Tiberius (that is, from the death of Augustus, 19th August, A.D. 14), but from his elevation to the joint sovereignty (shortly before the 16th January A.D. 12).


Thus here also the fulfilment has confirmed the prophecy a most surprising manner, and because Old Testament Messianic prophecy has accurately determined the humanity of the Redeemer as to family, place, and time, it has at the same time proved itself t be a perfect Divine picture.


(2) The Prophetic Anticipation of the Deity of the Messiah


But the Deity of the Messiah is also indicated in the Old Testament, even if only in veiled form and in pictures and riddles. First in the comparatively clear fashion in Nathan’s prophecy: “I will be his father, and he shall be my son” (I Chron. 17:13). Based on this David calls his son his “Lord” (Psa. 110:1; Matt. 22:44,45); and the typical David, as if stepping down from his throne, lays his crown at the feet of Him Who, sitting at the right hand of Jehovah, is the real, true David (Hos. 3:5; Ezek. 37:24,25). Furthermore the same Psalmist says: “Kiss the son, lest he be angry” and “Jehovah has said to me, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee” (Psa. 2:12,7), an expression which the New Testament applies to the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 13:33 comp. Rom. 1:4), which was promotion from life in the form of a servant to life in exaltation and thus His “begetting” into the royal estate.


Isaiah also further shows pictorially the deity of the Messiah in that he describes the “root-branch out of Jesse” (Isa. 11:1) as “zemach (shoot) of the Lord” (Isa. 4:2), and as “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty Hero, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). For Micah He is “Jehovah whose going out has been from eternity unto eternity” (Mic. 5:2); for Jeremiah “Jehovah our righteousness” (Jer. 23:5,6); and for Malachi “Jehovah whom ye seek” and “the Angel of the Covenant whom ye desire” (Mal. 3:1).


To this appertains also the self-testimony of the eternal “Wisdom” in Prov. 8:22-31, comp. John 1:1-3. The above sequence is in historical order. Nathan and David about 1050 B.C., Isaiah and Micah about 720, Jeremiah about 586, Malachi about 430.


[2] The Work of the Messiah


As the person of the Messiah was viewed by the prophet under harmonious contrast, so also His work. There it was the contrast between deity and humanity; here between humiliation and exaltation. The “sufferings which should come unto Christ” and “the glories thereafter”—this is the twofold content of all their prophesying (I Pet. 1:11).


(1) Christ’s Coming in Lowliness. In a positively sublime miniature they portrayed His first coming, the dark background to His radian Kingly glory.


His birth in Bethlehem: Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:1.


His public appearance in Galilee: Isa. 9:1,2;6; Matt. 4:12-16.


His gentleness and tenderness: Isa. 42:2,3; Matt. 12:17-21.


His consuming zeal: Psa. 69:9; John 2:17; Matt. 21:12.


His miracles and healings: Isa. 53:4; Matt. 8:16,17.


His entry into Jerusalem: Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:4,5.


The rage of His enemies: Psa. 2:1-3; Acts 4:25-28.


His desertion by His friends: Zech. 13:7; Matt. 26:31.


His betrayal for thirty pieces of silver: Zech. 11:12; Matt. 26:15.


His piercing on the cross: Psa. 22:16; John 20:25-27.


None of His bones broken: Exod. 12:46; Psa. 34:20; John 19:31-37.


The casting of lots for His garments: Psa. 22:18; Matt. 27:35.


Vinegar given Him to drink: Psa. 69:21; Matt. 27:34.


His cry of pain in distress: Psa. 22:1; Matt. 27:46.


His cry of victory: “It is finished:” Psa. 22:31; John 19:30.


The spear-thrust of the soldier: Zech. 12:10; John 19:34-37.


His resurrection on the third day: Psa. 16:10; Acts 2:25-31; Hos. 6:2.


His ascent to heaven: Psa. 110:1; Acts 2:34,35.


Through all this He is the suffering and victorious “Servant of God” Who, as the substitute for the sinner, completes redemption, and thus fulfils Isaiah 53, that most wonderful prophecy of the Old Testament (Acts 8:32-35).


(2) Christ’s Coming in Glory. The second coming of the Lord is also portrayed in the most living and splendid colours. In this the prophets, according to the law of “prophetic perspective,” often view the first and second comings of Christ together in one picture (Isa. 61:1,2; Luke 4:18-20).


Crowned with the golden-silver double crown (Zech. 6:11-13) of the kingship and priesthood of Melchizedek (Psa. 110:4), the Messiah rules over His kingdom in righteousness and sevenfold fulness of the Spirit (Isa. 11:2-4).


These are some of the glories of this golden age:


Conversion and union of Israel: Hos. 3:5; 2:17-19; Isa. 11:9; Zeph. 3:13; Ezek. 37:15-22.


Renewal of the nations: Zeph. 3:9.


Peace among the peoples: Mic.4:3,4.


Blessings upon Nature: Isa. 11:6-8; Hos. 2:21,22.


Enhanced brightness of sun and moon: Isa. 30:26.


Thus the Old Testament is like a star-spangled heaven at night even as the New is a bright sunny day, “and there is no word in the New Testament which does not look back to the Old, wherein it is announced in advance...for the New Testament is nothing else than a revelation of the Old: just as if one had first a closed letter and thereafter broke it open” (Luther, Kirchenpostille of 1522). It is to the last Messianic prophect of the Old Covenant (Mal. 3:1) that the first announcement of the birth of the New Covenant is attached (Gabriel to Zacharias, Luke 1:5-17). For Christ is the Omega of the Old and the Alpha of the New Testament.